Referring Patients to Seattle Children’s

New Referral Guidelines 2019

In summer 2019, Seattle Children’s began to update referral guidelines for specialty clinics, beginning with those clinics experiencing the longest wait times for new patient appointments.

View new referral guidelines for:

Referral guidelines for other clinics will be updated and posted on their Refer a Patient pages as they become available. See a list of all “Refer a Patient” pages.

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Why We Are Updating Referral Guidelines

Updated September 2019

As our region grows, Seattle Children’s remains committed to expanding specialty services to meet the needs of patients, families and our referring provider community.

Our challenge: access to certain specialty clinics

We recognize that several of our specialty clinics have extended wait times. This is largely due to increased referral volumes, provider departures and recruitment challenges associated with a nationwide shortage of pediatric specialties in areas such as genetics, neurodevelopmental, psychiatry, ophthalmology and rheumatology. We understand this is frustrating for patients, families and referring providers. Our providers and staff also share in the frustration.

Note that these access challenges are not in all specialties. We have many clinics with access for new patients within 30 days or less, including cardiology, diabetes, general surgery, infectious diseases, nephrology, neurosurgery, orthopedics and otolaryngology.

What we are doing to improve access

We completed a detailed assessment of our clinic access situation and have a project underway to address operational inefficiencies that affect access. We are taking multiple steps to address constraints as part of this project, and other organizational initiatives:

  • Scheduling optimization – Implementing numerous changes in our scheduling process, system and clinic staffing model; these changes will increase the number of patients seen in each clinic session, enable scheduling when families call for an appointment and increase outreach to families to schedule.
  • Referral management – Defining diagnoses, conditions and patient populations that must be seen on a timely basis for clinical reasons, clarifying services that we cannot offer and requiring data on referrals to support triage.
  • Seattlechildrens.org updates – Refreshing our external website detail to increase the usefulness of the site for families and referring providers.
  • Provider recruitment – Securing additional recruiting resources to expedite recruitment and onboarding of new providers.
  • Epic implementation – Transitioning to a single Epic EHR system in May 2020 to offer multiple improvement opportunities across all functions and improve access to information and communication processes with patients, families and referring providers. Much more information on this will be provided in the coming months.

What you can expect in late 2019 and 2020

To improve access to specialty care for our community, we will be making more changes in our clinics’ practices and our standard referral requirements. This may include:

  • Limiting care in some specialties for patients over 18 when appropriate by transitioning current patients and directing new patients to adult care.
  • Simplifying referral forms, and requiring completion of key data, including ICD-10 code and clinical reason for referral, to ensure accurate referral triage and scheduling.   
  • Recommending families seek care from their primary care providers (PCPs) for certain common conditions (e.g., constipation and headache), when appropriate, and offering resources to support PCPs (e.g., clinical protocols for evaluation and treatment of common conditions) in the process.

Please know that our goal is to improve access to care across our specialties and ensure that children who need us the most can be seen on a timely basis. We are working collaboratively with Dr. Sheryl Morelli, division chief of Community Pediatrics at Seattle Children’s and chief medical officer at Seattle Children’s Care Network (SCCN), and our physician liaison team to support our efforts.

We look forward to collaborating with you to improve access to care for all children. We are committed to being a collaborative partner to you in offering superior specialty clinical care for all children in our community.  

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